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Recycling "O'neill's" by Krassen/Fiddle Hell/If the Cap Fits

Nov 16, 2020 - 8:28:47 AM

gapbob

USA

742 posts since 4/20/2008

Back in 1980, when I started playing fiddle, one of the first books that I obtained, along with Cole's 1000, was the Miles Krassen edited version of O'Neill's music of Ireland. Back then, getting access to recordings and books was difficult, much more difficult was getting lessons from anyone who knew what they were doing. There was an avenue for instruction available to me that I didn't know about then, since James Kelly was playing with Paddy O'brien at McGurk's for several years, but work, along with distance, and lack of knowledge that he was teaching, I was pretty much stuck with listening to recordings and trying to play tunes out of the Krassen revision to O'Neill's.

I didn't get far that way. The only tunes I really got were the ones I obtained from ear via recordings.

I finally realized that the notation in Krassen's was just plain wrong (during a workship with Liz Carroll in 2000—when she explained the roll on Drowsy Maggie, which did not have 5 notes—I guess I wasn't a good listener before that) and that it had done a great disservice, in that I tried to learn to play ornamentation as it was written there. The ornamentation was an obstruction and in many cases wrong—it is difficult to get the Irish ornamentation and feel with a proper goal in mind, but with music that is written with ornamentation that is incorrect and/or obscures the original melody, it is impossible. (Note that playing by ear is really the only way to do it, of course.)

Eventually I was able to be around players that knew what they were doing and have since been laboriously undoing the injury to my playing that my dependence on the Krassen O'Neill's did early on, but I was set back for a decade or more in my playing, and it still haunts me to this day.

I recognize that Krassen did a huge amount of work in preparing the revision of O'Neill's, but unfortunately, IMHO, the result was not beneficial to traditional Irish music—after 40 years of playing, I still find it to be of little use.

There were some tunes that were done well that I have relied on in the book, such as his transcription of "Lord Gordon's Reel," but all in all, when I try to play tunes out of the book I am frustrated by the "written-in" ornamentation, which is often an impediment to learning a tune, obscuring the melody, even now when I have the ornamentation embedded in my mind.

So this morning I put the book into the recycling bin.

A friend told me that Fiddle Hell needed some people to sign up (and you can still sign up for Fiddle Hell, since the sessions were recorded and are available online for 3 months from the end of Fiddle Hell) and I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try, especially because Kevin Burke was giving workshops and concerts over Zoom. It was also nice that I am now 65 and get senior discounts (though I wouldn't mind be younger!)

I found Fiddle Hell (FH) to be quite interesting, since I am in the Midwest and don't get exposed to the majority of the individuals who were presenting at FH.

Salient points (to me) that I found in his first workshop:

Of course, I found the classes with Kevin Burke to be interesting. Fiddle Pogo would have been happy, because Burke discussed that on reels, he is pretty much of a pattern fiddler, doing a
3 U 3 D U D
pattern.

Listening to him do that, it does emphasize, as he described, the last 8th note and the 4th eighth note, giving a punch to the pickup to the beat notes. I daresay that the direction of the pattern above isn't required to be that way, one could, with attention, play it the other way around, which I am prone to do, but it does give me an idea about considering playing to replicate the emphasis that he described.  Don't worry, I'm not going to become a "pattern bower!"

When playing a roll on a dotted quarter note , one has the choice to place the roll at the start of the note or the end, with an extra 8th note at the start or end. Playing around with this, I realized I've been doing that, but not with thought.

On jigs, he tends to slur over from the previous measure to the next.

When doing a triplet, he pretty much always introduces the triplet (which he plays DUD pretty much always, doesn't start with an upbow) with a DU. Sometimes he slurs from the last downbow of the triplet into the next note.

During his classes/concerts he would plug his recordings and book, "The Solo Albums," which features a transcription of the entire "If the Cap Fits" album, with bowings. I mentioned earlier that listening to recordings early on was a bright point in my learning to play Irish music and I had made a cassette of my album and listened to it every time I drove my car for a couple years. So tunes like "The Cliffs of Moher" became a success.

Since I like to support musicians, I bought the book, especially because I have listened to it so much that the recording is sitting in the cobwebs of my brain, so I'll be exploring that and trying to sweep away the cobwebs. So far, it looks pretty good.

I also took a workshop with Lydia Ievins, Scandinavian music, which encouraged me to develop some ideas of how to use a looper to augment my practice and from whom I learned a beautiful brudmarsch.

Also learned a nice set of tunes from Andrea Beaton.

There were some issues with internet loading that caused some squirrely playback issues, but these are largely missing from the recordings.

Edited by - gapbob on 11/16/2020 08:36:36

Nov 16, 2020 - 8:44:02 AM

DougD

USA

10033 posts since 12/2/2007

Back in the 1970's I bought a copy of the facsimile reprint of O'Neill's produced by Dan Michael Collins, who was a mainstay in the New York Irish music community. I bought it directly from him and I don't know how widely it was distributed, but if you come across a copy its great.

Nov 16, 2020 - 9:31:28 AM

gapbob

USA

742 posts since 4/20/2008

There are facsimile copies of it available now and it is also available as a PDF on the internet, so if I want to refer to it, I am good.

Nov 16, 2020 - 9:48:47 AM

DougD

USA

10033 posts since 12/2/2007

Yes I know all that. Dan Collin's edition was a heroic effort in its time (maybe especially compared to Miles') and I just thought I'd give it a shout out.
Miles Krassen's "Appalachian Fiddle," on the other hand, was very helpful. I wish it were still in print.

Edited by - DougD on 11/16/2020 09:51:02

Nov 16, 2020 - 10:19:25 AM

gapbob

USA

742 posts since 4/20/2008

Yeah, got that.

Nov 16, 2020 - 11:32:30 AM
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1489 posts since 4/6/2014

IMO each tune will have its own path through history to the transcribers hand,then through the transcriber onto the page. If a tune came from say, County Clare through Quebec and down to Boston, it will be different from the same tune coming from Clare to New York or indeed the same tune coming back from Chicago or New York to Ireland, then through our own hands to the listener, who also has their own pre-concieved idea's about the tune. Take that and multiply the complexity by 1001 supposedly "Different" tunes and over a period of say 200 years of history...... And that's just O'niells!..And only 4 or 5 locations!.... And assuming the tune was transcribed perfectly as heard, and played perfectly as transcribed. By folk who are not necessarily schooled in the art of transcription, or have a "Standard" technique. And i am sure there are a lot more parameters to take into account as well.... If you cant please everyone, then....

Nov 16, 2020 - 12:11:10 PM

1773 posts since 12/11/2008

My O'Neill's book has no evidence it was ever updated or edited by anybody. Yes, my copy was published/reissued by Mel Bay, but the song book seems to be a direct reprint of O'Neill's aged tome. In any case, instructions, tips and bowing clues are almost entirely absent...something that has given me the freedom to just read the tunes off the page and let my fingers do the walking. Am I desecrating centuries of Irish playing when I do this? I don't care. I'm producing beautiful music.

Nov 16, 2020 - 12:31 PM
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DougD

USA

10033 posts since 12/2/2007

The facsimile edition published by Mel Bay looks to be identical to the one earlier published by Daniel Michael Collins. Its just a reprint of the original. I remember that Miles Krassen's book was the subject of some controversy when it appeared because of his editing of the tunes.
Pete - You should read Chief O'Neills introduction to the book. The 1850 tunes were collected from the Irish community in late 19th century Chicago, largely the members of the Irish music club, both from their own playing and from earlier collections they provided. These people were either immigrants from Ireland or perhaps their first generation descendants - the tunes had not wandered all over the place as you suggest. There are apparently some errors, but overall I think its generally regarded as a wonderful collection from that time and place.

Nov 16, 2020 - 12:53:55 PM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2307 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posntheted by DougD

Miles Krassen's "Appalachian Fiddle," on the other hand, was very helpful. I wish it were still in print.


Used copies out there in the $30+ price range.
https://www.bookfinder.com/search/?ac=sl&st=sl&ref=bf_s2_a2_t1_2&qi=IGd2xq4L3n6IyVmTpKu0Bif,qbg_1497963026_1:39:68&bq=author%3Dmiles%2520krassen%26title%3Dappalachian%2520fiddle

Nov 16, 2020 - 2:15:48 PM
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1489 posts since 4/6/2014

Doug: yeah read it. Its one of the reasons that i consider transcriptions of "thousands" of tunes (As in O'Neill's) to be representations of tunes by individuals rather than definitive transcriptions of tunes from ancient "tomes" (to quote Lonesome Fiddler). I've even heard tell of some of the tunes being of Scottish decent rather than Irish. And possibly even from English sources! perish the thought. When i run them through the mill of immigration, dancing for eels, minstrel shows clog dancing, ships fiddlers (from whichever nation) Jack Diamond, and Boz's Juba.....etc etc. It seems very unlikely that many of them have survived untouched by various fiddlers hands until the early 20th century when my copy of O'Neill's was printed.

Nov 16, 2020 - 5:12:56 PM

1773 posts since 12/11/2008

I'm a modernist. I prefer speaking Cro Magnon over Neanderthal or Piltdown.

Nov 17, 2020 - 12:29:24 PM
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gapbob

USA

742 posts since 4/20/2008

Of course there are no definitive sources for tunes, except for those where the original composition is known, but even then, I probably won't play it that way.  There is a book out there that's quite fine, called The Scribe,that talks about how the tomes were assembled.  According to that book, iirc, about 532 tunes were actually from the repertoire of James O'Neill, some were mangled versions of more than one tune, such as The Grey Goose, some were taken from other collections.  
It is a snapshot of what was going on around Chicago.  Take a look at the Dunn Collection, which were cylinders that were recorded by O'Neill, but were given to a friend for safe-keeping, featuring some of the players from whom the tunes were taken were recorded.
 
quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle

Doug: yeah read it. Its one of the reasons that i consider transcriptions of "thousands" of tunes (As in O'Neill's) to be representations of tunes by individuals rather than definitive transcriptions of tunes from ancient "tomes" (to quote Lonesome Fiddler). I've even heard tell of some of the tunes being of Scottish decent rather than Irish. And possibly even from English sources! perish the thought. When i run them through the mill of immigration, dancing for eels, minstrel shows clog dancing, ships fiddlers (from whichever nation) Jack Diamond, and Boz's Juba.....etc etc. It seems very unlikely that many of them have survived untouched by various fiddlers hands until the early 20th century when my copy of O'Neill's was printed.


Edited by - gapbob on 11/17/2020 12:33:09

Nov 21, 2020 - 5:55:19 PM

1065 posts since 6/26/2007

I'm glad you enjoyed Fiddle Hell Online, gapbob! I thought Kevin's workshops were very helpful, especially as he illustrated his points very directly on the fiddle. Kevin taught 3 workshops, led 2 jams, and played an hour solo concert. On the video replays, I find it useful to be able to slow him down to half speed without changing the pitch. As you mentioned, there's still access to the 35 concerts, 35 jams, and 165 workshops for the next 2.5 months at a reduced rate.

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